The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: Lars and the Real Girl

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Lars and the Real Girl”
Rated PG-13

Sweet never meant sappy in 2007’s “Lars and the Real Girl,” a forthright, compassionate drama aware that for some, life’s training wheels take time to remove.

Nancy Oliver’s sincere, graceful script about working through grief with the help of tolerance and patience deftly avoided introducing artificial drama. And, as Lars, the reliably terrific Ryan Gosling gave a warm, earnest performance.

Everyone has bouts of insecurity, but they’re often internalized and rarely strike anyone as odd. However, pretending that a doll intended for sexual simulation is real seems awfully external and strange, especially in a small Wisconsin town.

A reserved hermit, the squirmy Lars has a headspace as spartan as his living space — sleeping in the garage of his childhood home, now occupied by brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and pregnant sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer).

When Lars introduces Bianca, a “missionary on sabbatical to experience the world,” Gus fears Lars — still reeling from his mother’s death and father’s distance — has lost it. But the community unexpectedly rallies around Lars’ unique bereavement.

Neither daffy nor dirty, “Lars” treats its characters’ concerns and consternations with respect. It’s not what Gus or Karin has withheld from Lars, but what they represent that terrifies him, and Schneider’s dramatically quivering voice here once he realizes that is as resonant as his quick wit in other work.

Drawing on the idea that growing up is doing what’s right even when it hurts, “Lars” understood emotional confrontation is as viable and vital a part of life as emotional comfort.

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9 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: Lars and the Real Girl”

  1. […] of the Dragon Kissing Jessica Stein Knocked Up Kung Fu Hustle Kung Fu Panda The Ladykillers (2004) Lars and the Real Girl Layer Cake Letters From Iwo Jima The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou Little Miss Sunshine Live Free […]

  2. Sonya says:

    This movie has it all: great acting, an original storyline, a range of emotions and is just a great film. You’ll laugh and cry and love it!

  3. […] Craig Gillespie, who’s made offbeat films like “Mr. Woodcock” and “Lars and the Real Girl,” has a nice eye and gives “Fright Night” some menacing visual flair. But this is a […]

  4. Aimee says:

    Lars is such a gem of a movie– thoroughly enjoyed it and Ryan Gosling’s stellar performance. He’s different in every film he’s in…

    btw- if you’re a Paul Schneider fan– see All The Real Girls (I think it was his second movie)about first love… with Zooey Deschanel.

  5. Nick Rogers says:

    mia: Ryan Gosling needs to be in more films, period. I’m hoping that whatever this comedy he’s doing with Steve Carell will juice his career again and not just end up as another schmaltzy "Dan in Real Life" piece of treacle. Also, don’t forget Paul Schneider’s good turns in the otherwise-lame "Elizabethtown" and the also-on-the-best-list "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford."

  6. It’s not my favorite movie–I felt like it had some problems–but overall very affecting. Ryan Gosling chooses his roles with such care, and I can’t picture anyone else playing Lars. Also, as much as I’ll miss Paul Schneider on Parks & Recreation, damn is he a solid character actor. His supporting turns Lars, Bright Star and Away We Go all impressed the hell out of me.

  7. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nick Rogers, The Film Yap. The Film Yap said: The cheese inspectors beat the crap out of us. #bestfilmsofthedecade #heroesofthezeroes […]

  8. Chi says:

    I love "Lars…"! :)